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Aug 27, 2023    
Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church    
Lakeland, Florida                          

Psalm 107:1-9, 43
The Book of Hosea

Grace to you and peace from God and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. 

Please pray with me. May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in your sight O Lord, our Rock and our Redeemer. Amen.

The prophet, Hosea and his unfaithful wife, Gomer. What do we do with this? It isn’t easy – perhaps there’s a good reason that we don’t find this in our regular lectionary readings. And, one of the reasons that this book of the Bible is not easy is that too many of us have experienced the pain of an unfaithful spouse. Or for reasons that are our own or that we don’t even understand, have been an unfaithful spouse. Perhaps a child or friend has suffered because of this. Perhaps our life was changed because of this. To you, I say, I am sorry for your suffering and hurt. And I pray that God’s steadfast love will bring you comfort. If I can help you in any way, please let me know.

Perhaps you have heard, as I have been taught, that every sermon should contain both Law and Gospel. Both words of what God requires of God’s people and also words of God’s mercy for God’s people.  It is said that we afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted. And most of us are some combination of the afflicted and the comfortable. So it is that we preach Law and Gospel. Of course, the book of the prophet Hosea is not primarily about the relationship of Hosea and Gomer. 

This book is best read through the lens of love. A lens that offers both Law and Gospel, comfort and affliction. The people of God – those whose forbears, Abraham and Sarah, were the first recipients of God’s covenant – as many as the stars in the sky so shall your descendants be. You shall be my people and I shall be your God. Holy words of promise and relationship.

And those words of promise and relationship, words of covenantal love and care, were experienced as they were freed from Egypt, taken through the wilderness to the Land of Promise and then settled in that land. Yet despite this covenant, God’s people turned from God to their own desires, to their own interests, in fact, to gods that they fashioned with human hands. And in so doing, they turned from the covenant.

And, this angered God but God never left God’s people. God never forgot the covenant, the words of promise, that he had uttered to Abraham and lived out through Abraham and Jacob and Isaac; through Sarah and Rachel and Leah; through Joseph and his brothers; through Moses and Aaron and Joshua. Through Rahab and Deborah and Ruth; through David and Bathsheba and Solomon. Through leaders and judges and now kings.

Though the kings often did what was evil in the sight of the Lord. Yet God never forgot his covenant with his people. For God’s steadfast love endures forever. And that is the lens of love through which to hear the story of Hosea and Gomer, of God and God’s people.

The love here is not the romantic sentimental love of chocolates and roses on Valentine’s Day. Or coos and rattles on a baby’s birthday. The love here is the deep care and concern that knits people together as it did Ruth and Naomi. This is a love that does not give up. This is a love that is persistent and pervasive and tenacious. This is a love that is rooted in God’s eternal covenant from days of old.

So, we read the words of Hosea, some of which are very difficult, but we know the end of the story. We know that these hard words are born of love, even love that is disappointed by the weak response to the lover’s love. Even love that is hurt by another’s unfaithfulness. 

The Book of Hosea, despite its graphic description of Israel’s unfaithfulness and the dire results of that unfaithfulness, also describes God’s love for Israel. “I led them with cords of human kindness, with bands of love. I was to them like those who lift infants to their cheeks. I bent down and fed them.” Can you see the tenderness there?

God is fully aware of their unfaithfulness, fully aware of how far they had moved from their covenant with the Lord, yet the final words are words of love and care and faithfulness – God’s faithfulness.

I will heal their disloyalty;
    I will love them freely,
    for my anger has turned from them.
I will be like the dew to Israel;
    he shall blossom like the lily;
    he shall strike root like the forests of Lebanon.
His shoots shall spread out;
    his beauty shall be like the olive tree
    and his fragrance like that of Lebanon.
They shall again live beneath my shadow;
    they shall flourish as a garden;
they shall blossom like the vine;
    their fragrance shall be like the wine of Lebanon.

And this is the promise to us as well for we too have turned from God’s covenantal relationship, from God’s everlasting love in order to pursue that which suits our fancy without regard for others. We have shaped God in our image rather than being shaped into God’s image. We have relied on false gods, false sources of security. Yet God beckons to us out of God’s steadfast love and faithfulness.

And we come together week upon week to worship and praise. To remember our baptismal promises and the covenant that God made with us. To feast at the Table so that we may be nourished for our daily journey.

Thanks be to God.